You are currently browsing the monthly archive for January 2009.

Please support your local crusading U.S. Attorney!

Yesterday’s news, chronicled in the Abuse Tracker by Kathy Shaw, was full of stories about the Federal Grand Jury Investigation of the Diocese of Los Angeles and Cardinal Roger M. Mahony for his alleged role in covering up child molestation by priests.  The grounds on which the grand jury’s work is to be based centers on whether Mahony or other church officials violated a law prohibiting schemes to “deprive another of the intangible right of honest services.”

I am sure that this news has shaken Chancery buildings across the country.  Even as we speak I have little doubt of the quaking cassocks that are turning to their shredders to purge Diocesan records of proof of the continued policy of hiding and enabling pedophile priests .

I fully support any crusading U.S. Attorney, especially the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, to get a warrant and raid  Chancery Buildings before the Bishops obstruct justice (again) to hide their complicity in the scandal that will not go away.   May I suggest that they start with the Diocese of Scranton on Wyoming Avenue in Scranton.   Hey,  it is a short walk from the William J. Nealon Federal Building and Courthouse on North Washington Avenue, where the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania is located.    If  Cardinal Mahony and the Diocese of Los Angeles can be investigated, then lets afford the same legal courtesy to victims of pedophile priests in Northeast Pennsylvania (NEPA) and investigate Bishop Timlin, Bishop Martino and the Diocese of Scranton’s handling of the sexual assaults and abuses by priests in NEPA.

The Diocese of Scranton is still hiding information and protecting pedophiles at the expense of parishioners and to the detriment of victims.  Their “transparent” process is filled with roadblocks and secrecy.  They attempt to keep victims silent and act as if we are the villains.  If the process is transparent, why are the names of the members of the Review Board that advises the Bishop on Sex Abuse cases are kept confidential?   I’m not sure that the Diocese grasps the concept of “transparent”.

Remember, this is not about religion.  This is about a large business enterprise (the Diocese) consolidating their power and influence while  trying to manage risk by obstructing justice, hiding information and protecting pedophiles and rapists.   If any other business venture were to conduct themselves in this manner the CEO and the leadership of that business venture would be in jail, and rightfully so.

Now is the time to act.  Now is the time to push for Window Legislation in Pennsylvania and force the Catholic Dioceses of that Commonwealth to do the right thing.  The seem to lack a conscience , only the legal system will be able to compel them to do what should have been intuitive to the leaders of a religion.

Please contact your legislators and the U.S. Attorney’s office in your region to support any initiative that forces the Catholic church to be accountable for their actions.

I have been doing some travel to the Washington, DC area as part of my job.  The project that I am working on has meetings  scheduled almost every Wednesday.  This has afforded me the opportunity to try to get to a SNAP support group meeting that is conducted by the Virginia Coordinator for SNAP in Falls Church on the last Wednesday of the month.   The meeting is  at 7:00 p.m. at TYSONS-PIMMIT HILLS REGIONAL LIBRARY, 7684 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA.  (Please contact: Ellen Radday 703-538-6128 or Wayne Dorough 443-336-4186 for more information.)   I spoke to Becky Ianni, the Virginia Chapter Coordinator to confirm that the meeting was still on.  She assured me that the group was going to meet as scheduled.

If you are looking for SNAP Support Groups in your area, go to the SNAP pages listing support groups for the eastern, central and western sections of the United States.  There are also pages for Canada and Mexico

SNAP should update some of the contact information for some of the chapters.  I know that the information for the area I live in, Hampton Roads, Virginia  is out of date.   There is no information listed on a chapter in Northeast Pennsylvania or for Scranton proper.  Given the number of priests accused/convicted in that area, I would think that an organized support group in that area is greatly needed.

Of course, these support groups are only as good as the people who are willing to come forward and stand up not only for themselves but for others who have been affected by the Clergy Sex Abuse/Assault Scandal. We will be much more successful when we consolidate our energy and resources to affect a change in the law and in the attitude of the church. I don’t believe the latter will happen until the laws change.

In the spirit of change that has captured this country, I recommend that we all stand up together and be heard.

When I look back at decisions I have made and actions that I have taken throughout my life thus far, I am struck by the primary, secondary and tertiary effects of those decisions and actions.  (note: if you are a diocesan spokesperson, tertiary is defined as third rank of order or importance, please try to keep up!).

For those who are victims of sexual assault at the hands of clergy, their lives took an oblique turn with the first assault and betrayal of trust.  Not only was their innocence stolen, but most life decisions they have made from that point on are related to that primary event.   For some it was all-consuming. For others, the events manifested themselves in decision-making skills , lifestyles, relationship skills, interactions with friends and family, addictions, personality changes.   For many of us, life decisions were made based on the long-lasting effects of the sexual assaults.

The methodology for second and third order effects  is pretty simple.  Cause 1 yields Effect 1.  In my case, the gradually escalating mental and physical  abuse, to include sexual assaults by Father Gibson when I was 13 was my Cause 1.  One of the first order effects resulting from Cause 1 was a total loss of trust in Priests and suspicion of the motives of any adult in a position of authority (coaches, teachers, police, Scout Leaders, etc…) .

Effect 1,the loss of trust becomes Cause 2 yielding  Effect 2.  (There are many second level effects, but for the sake of brevity and clarity I will only deal with one second order effect.)   Effect 2 was a questioning of every aspect of  Catholic faith, tradition and dogma.     This happened over time and finally manifested itself in an outright rejection of Catholicism by the time I was serving in the Navy.   With a betrayal as obscene as I had experienced, this seemed to be a logical step.  As I have mentioned in earlier posts, at the time I should have been converting the years of religious education, service as an altar boy, and generational examples of those in my good Irish Catholic family to a solid faith, I was dealing with a pedophile who was getting some perverse satisfaction not only from the physical part of the assault  but from the psychological gratification of knowing he had me trapped.  Without that basis in faith, I could not form a bond with Catholicism.

Effect 2 becomes Cause 3 yields Effect 3.  One of those third order effects was that my rejection of the Catholic faith led me to reject the notion of raising my children as Catholics or, for that matter,  in any other faith.  I rejected the notion of voluntarily attending any religious services on a regular basis.  I have attended religious events as a part of my job, out of deference to my parents (their 50th Anniversary Mass), or at events such as weddings or funerals.  In those instances where I attend some sort of  Catholic ritual, I do not receive any sacraments.    Two of my sons have never been baptized and they have very limited experience with any kind of participation in religious services.

I’m sure I can diagram out first, second and third order effects of the abuse for days and not capture all of them  all.  I am sure the tree diagram that would be generated by such an exercise would be pretty impressive.   The profound impact of the events in 1974 have altered my relationships with my parents and siblings since then.  I am sure that members of my family could actually pinpoint the change in my personality at the time if they thought about it.  Friends from Notre Dame could  point to profound changes in my appearance and behavior during high school.  In fact, one of those friends has actually commented on just this subject after I told them the story of my experience with Father Gibson.

While in college, I could become suddenly distant.  I know, with certainty, that this impacted relationships with friends and kept me from getting  close or opening up to people who were important to me.  My relationship with my parents was strained for years.  While there were other factors, the main driver was the fact that I was embarrassed and ashamed of what had happened in the rectory at Our Lady Queen of Peace,  in New York and in Florida with Gibson.  At some level I know I resented my parents for not protecting me from this predator.

At the beginning of the second semester of my senior year at the University of Scranton I made the decision that I had to get away from Pennsylvania, Father Gibson, my family and friends and start a new life.  I had to leave behind the damage that was done.  I made the decision to stop pursuing a spot in a law school.   The fastest ticket out-of-town was the military.  The Navy was my French Foreign Legion.  I signed up so I could “forget”.   Within 2 weeks of my college graduation I left Pennsylvania for good.  I left my family, my friends, my dreams and opportunities to get away from the damage.  The thing is, the damage went with me and kept manifesting its paralyzing effects in every aspect of my life. The damage from Father Gibson continued to impact every relationship and important decision in my  life despite my attempts to run away from it.  I am trying to face it and take ownership of it still.   I don’t know how successful I will be.

I am working on drafting a letter to Bishop Martino to address the particulars of my “experiences” with Father Gibson when I was 13.   This has been a difficult letter to write because it not only addresses the nature of the abuse but because I want to also ask him why no investigation has ever been conducted in the 18+ months since I made my initial report.   I have many more questions for him, and I truly believe answers will not be forthcoming.  

Obviously the drafting the letter is taking much of my limited down time at night.   One of the things I have been asking myself is “why are you bothering in the first place with such low expectations?”.  If nothing else, the people wearing blinders on Wyoming Avenue in Scranton will have the information that they should have collected as part of the investigation they should have conducted.  I don’t want to be accused of not providing information to the Bishop to inform his decision on what  action would be  appropriate in dealing with the problem.   I suspect that action verbs are not in vogue in Scranton.

If you have advice or recommendations on how I should focus the letter, I would be glad to hear it.  Leave a comment or send me an email.

Happy New Year!

The start of a new year, especially after a major election cycle, is filled with the promise of a new legislative session opening. As is the tradition established in the U.S. Constitution, the new Congress will be sworn in on the first Monday in January. This year that will be on 5 January.

Many state legislatures will also be starting anew this week. Bills that were not taken up by the respective houses in state governments in the last session have will have to be reintroduced to be considered during the next legislative session. In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the House of Representatives  and Senate will reconvene on 6 January in Harrisburg as stipulated by the Pennsylvania Constitution. 253 members of the the Pennsylvania Legislature (50 Senators and 203 Members of the House of Representatives) will begin the task of tackling the legislative agenda for the Commonwealth.

If you are a resident of Pennsylvania, please contact your Senator and Representative and let them know that you support the passage of “window legislation” that will allow victims of sexual abuse as minor children to seek criminal and civil action against the person that preyed on them.

If you are a resident of any other state that has not passed “window” legislation, call, write or email your representatives to show your support.

Left to their own devices, organizations like the Catholic Church have shown that they will not do the right thing. As a result, the law of the land must protect victims where the church has failed. The only way to change the behavior of the Church is to force them under the threat of criminal and/or civil penalty if they fail. Canon Law has failed survivors of abuse. Support the rights of those who have been victimized by pedophile priests and then re-victimized by aloof and uncaring diocesan bureaucracies.

Get involved and make a difference!

I was reading some of the blogs that come from others who share a similar experience. One in particular struck me with a word that I no longer wish to use in my search for answers. The word is adrift. Please excuse an old Navy man for taking exception with this term. Adrift implies that the vessel is no longer under command and is without direction.

That word should not apply to those of us seeking some modicum of truth and/or justice. We need direction and we need to be unified in our actions to force a change in the way the bishops deal with the issue of sexual abuse not only of children but of vulnerable adults as well. A simple review of the numbers of accused/convicted pedophiles and philanderers on Bishop Accountability show an alarming number of perps who have enjoyed the protection of the Church. The numbers are way to high and we all know that the list online is, by no means, a complete list. Please remember that list only has the names of those who have been identified in a public forum. There are many more who have not come on the radar yet.

Adrift. That word can be applied to the Catholic Hierarchy. They lack the moral authority to command and the act of protecting pedophiles is an indication that the they are so lost in preserving their little fiefdoms that they have lost direction.

No, we are not the ones who are adrift. We have a direction, we have the truth as our true north. Until that heading is relayed to the Catholic Church and all Dioceses come around to that heading, they will be the ones who are adrift.

Copyright

This site is copyrighted by my statement.
Michael Baumann


Credit: Michael Baumann at "Off My Knees"

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 61 other followers

January 2009
M T W T F S S
« Dec   Feb »
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
262728293031